By John Bombatch
XENIA — “Hip Hip, Jorge!”
With each strikeout, Jorge Lozano’s Xenia Scout teammates would break into that cheer from the dugout. Fans heard it eight times as the Wright State redshirt freshman starting pitcher fanned eight Hamilton Joes batters to claim a crucial 2-1 win, Friday night at Grady’s Field on the Athletes In Action Sports Complex.
With the win, the Scouts now have a two-game lead in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s South Division with three games yet to play in the regular season. They’ve all but clinched a spot in the post season, which begins July 26 among the league’s top-6 teams.
“I am blown away!” Xenia manager Bubba Cates said after the win. “That’s a really talented team over there. But you know that ol’ saying ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?’ I’d say that characterizes us pretty well.
“We have some good players, some very good players. But we don’t have what other people might look at and say ‘Those are the best players in the league,’ but they play like the best players in the league sometimes, and that’s a lot of fun to be around.”
Hamilton came into the game needing a win to even themselves up with the Scouts for the division lead. Just the night before, Xenia went down to Hamilton’s Foundation Field and came away with a 5-2 Scouts win to grab the South Division lead.
Three of the league’s top-5 hitters were in the Joe’s lineup, but Lozano limited Hamilton to three hits. GLSCL batting leader Ben Spitznagel collected a two-out triple in the sixth inning, but failed to score. Blake Hart managed an eighth-inning single, but was stranded on second as the inning ended. The only Joes run came in the fourth when Dane Tofteland, the league’s fifth ranked hitter at this point, bashed a solo home run over the left-field fence.
Xenia batters teamed up to score their two runs.
In the opening inning, lead-off batter Ryan O’Hearn reached base on a walk. The Hillsdale College junior then stole second base, reached third on John Sharpe’s flyout to right field, then raced home on a passed ball.
Number nine batter Aaron Valance came up with a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth. He advanced to second on an errant pick-off throw from Hamilton all-star pitcher Chase Antle, of Bowling Green State University. Vallance, of Wayland Baptist University out in Plainview, Texas, then scored from second on a Sharpe single to right for what proved to be the winning run.
“We have a chance to make some Xenia Scouts history here, and the players are excited about that,” Cates said. “No Xenia team has ever won the championship, or the division title. And that’s what we’re after now.”
Both Hamilton and Xenia have three games left to play in the season.
Xenia has games at 5:05 p.m. and 7:35 p.m. today in Newark against the Licking County Settlers (20-18) at Don Edwards Stadium. The Scouts will then finish their regular season against the Settlers at 4:05 p.m. Sunday with a home game at Grady’s Field, in Xenia.
Hamilton plays its final three games against third-place Cincinnati (22-16). The Joes host the Steam for a Saturday doubleheader at Hamilton’s Foundation Field. They then close out the regular season with a 6:05 p.m. contest in Cincinnati.